When talking about low mood a few weeks ago, a colleague likened it to having a huge magnet inside that attracts negative thoughts and feelings. The metaphor really resonated with me, so I thought I would share it.
We know that when people experience low mood or depression, there are changes in the brain that occur. Without us wilfully doing anything, we find that negative thoughts seem to be endless, that we notice everything we perceive to be going wrong, and that painful feelings and memories pre-dominate. Clients describe it like their being a fog that dampens everything and leaves them feeling dark or empty. It's like the joy has been sucked out of life, some will say.
So, what can we do? Knowing that the mind is acting like a magnet for the negative, it's important that we re-balance it with the positive. We're not making it up, or trying to put a shine on something that is dull, what we're doing is re-opening old ways of thinking that have got obscured in the mist while the magnet is drawing the negative towards us.
Here are some ways of helping your mind to recover it's balance:
A Every hour or so, stop what you are doing, and spend a few moments just being in the moment. Notice exactly what is around you - what you can see, and what you can hear. Ask yourself what sensations you are feeling, and really take note. When we do this we often find there are pleasant things to notice - the sound of birds, the colours of plants, or pictures in the room, warmth, people we are with, just be aware of whatever it is you surrounded by.
B Each day, count ten things you are grateful for on your hands. You may start with big things, but by the time you reach ten usually you will have started to notice finer detail as well. The idea of this exercise is to remind us of all the small things that we can be thankful for, no matter what else is going on in our lives that may have knocked us off centre. It’s an exercise that causes us to release dopamine and serotonin, both hormones that have a feel good factor.
C Keep a daily positive events diary. At the end of the day, write down all the things that have gone well, from managing to get up and dressed, through to getting out and about, having successful meetings, enjoying a videocall with people you love...whatever it is that is a success for you. Resist the temptation to capture the things that didn't go well, your brain has that covered already!
Re-balancing our thoughts when we have been low takes time, and persistence. It is a gradual process, not of trying to blot out the negative, but of re-balancing with the positive that was there anyway, but that our minds stopped us noticing. Don't worry if negative thoughts come up, you can notice them and let them pass by without getting involved with them. They are not bad or wrong, they are simply thoughts.
"There's no law against my listening to this thrush beyond the barn,
the song so loud it echoes like a bell,
then, it's further off beyond the lawn
Whatever else there is, there's this as well"